How to Relieve Stress With Medical Marijuana
How does medical marijuana relieve stress? It’s an interesting topic. In this post, we’ll look at the characteristics of stress including the ways it negatively impacts our health. We’ll go over how compounds found in marijuana called cannabinoids work to reduce stress and stave off disease. Then we’ll talk about treating stress with marijuana.
Can marijuana be used to relieve stress? Science says yes. The human body produces compounds that modulate brain activities that occur in response to stress. Interestingly, these compounds are known as cannabinoids. That word might sound familiar because this is the same class of active compounds that are produced in marijuana.
Actually, the cannabinoids made by the human body are known technically as endocannabinoids, while those produced in marijuana are known as phytocannabinoids. Oftentimes people suffering from stress show low levels of endocannabinoids, and supplementing their diet with phytocannabinoids has been shown to help bring brain chemistry back into balance in many cases.
So, how do cannabinoids help to relieve stress? Let’s take a look. But first, let’s try to understand the basics of stress and its effects on the human body.
What is stress?
Stress is nature’s way of propelling us into immediate action if faced with dangerous or challenging situations. There are times when our very survival depends on this response. However, if stress becomes a chronic state-of-being it may eventually result in some serious health issues.
Certain events will often induce an emotional or physical response such as anger, anxiety, nervousness, or frustration. This involuntary response to challenging situations is known as stress.
Everyone experiences stress in different ways. Sometimes, even happy events can trigger a stress response. Stress can have many sources, including events such as the death of a spouse or close family member, money problems, relationship issues, illnesses, or work problems.
There are two categories of stress:
- Acute stress is a temporary response usually resolved in a timely manner. This feeling can be experienced in moments of heightened emotions or life-threatening situations. Even extreme activities such as skydiving or downhill skiing may invoke a stressful response. Everyone will experience acute stress from time to time.
- Chronic stress can manifest if someone is dealing with ongoing issues such as financial duress, marital discord, relentless physical pain, or work-related problems. These stressful issues may plague an individual for months or years and if the situation isn’t resolved the effects can be devastating. Sadly, for some people, chronic stress becomes the norm, rendering them incapable of recognizing the impact on their physical and mental health.
When someone experiences any kind of stress, acute or chronic, their body is flooded with hormones. The hormonal surge can induce the fight or flight response, effectively causing the brain to snap into high alert, muscles to tense, and the heart to beat faster. This reaction is the body’s way of getting ready to protect itself from a perceived threat.
The body will often respond to acute or chronic stress with physical and emotional symptoms. Here are some common issues known to be brought on by stress:
- Lack of energy or focus
- Sexual problems
- Stiff jaw or neck
- Use of alcohol or drugs to relax
- Weight loss or gain
- Frequent aches and pains
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Upset stomach
- Lack of energy or focus
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
Stress can have some terrifying long-term effects as well. In fact, studies suggest that it can drastically and negatively affect the aging process. Furthermore, there is a strong correlation between stress and worsening Alzheimer’s symptoms. In one animal study, chronic stress was found to cause brain lesions to form more rapidly in Alzheimer’s patients. There is also strong speculation that Alzheimer’s progression can be drastically retarded when chronic stress is reduced.
In another research study on aging, the DNA of highly-stressed mothers of chronically ill children was compared to the DNA of women in normal circumstances. The scientists discovered a specific region of the chromosomes in the stressed mother indicating a severely accelerated aging process. In fact, it was determined that the stressed mother showed an acceleration of an additional 9 to 17 years.
A recent study on elderly caregivers tending to their sickly spouses examined the effects of this stressful situation on the caregiver. The study revealed that the caregivers, due to the inordinate amount of daily stress, indicated a 63 percent higher death rate than non-caregivers.
How does medical marijuana help relieve stress?
As we mentioned, our bodies are capable of producing cannabinoids via what is known as the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Receptors for these compounds are found on the surface of cells throughout the body and in all major organs.
Plant-derived cannabinoids such as THC and CBD are called phytocannabinoids. There are other cannabinoids found in smaller amounts in the cannabis plant such as CBG, CBC, and CBN. Cannabinoids are produced primarily in the resinous flower clusters of the cannabis plant.
Research indicates that cannabis-derived cannabinoids have a similar effect on the body’s receptors as the body’s innate endocannabinoids.
Chronic stress is associated with reduced serotonin levels in the human body. The phytocannabinoids CBD and CBG are thought to mimic the effects of the endocannabinoid anandamide. Anandamide regulates the absorption and production of serotonin.
Medical marijuana strains containing a balance of THC and CBD appear to be the most effective at reducing stress. However, THC, an intoxicating compound, may promote feelings of paranoia and impede social interactions and the ability to focus in some patients. For patients wishing to avoid intoxication and paranoid feelings, CBD alone may be the best option.
Studies on medical marijuana and stress
Learn More on Marijuana Micro Dosing – MedCard
In a publication by Vanderbilt University Medical Center authors claimed that a cannabinoid compound produced by the brain called 2-AG protects against stress by reducing anxiety-causing connections between two brain regions, namely the amygdala and the frontal cortex. The cannabinoid signaling system that suppresses information flow between these two brain regions is critical for setting the level of anxiety in animals.
Researchers found that phytocannabinoids activate the same receptors as 2-AG to inhibit stress.
“The circuit between the amygdala and the frontal cortex has been shown to be stronger in individuals with certain types of anxiety disorders. As people or animals are exposed to stress and get more anxious, these two brain areas glue together, and their activity grows stronger together,” said Sachin Patel, MD, PhD, the paper’s corresponding author and director of the Division of General Psychiatry at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. “We might predict there’s a collapse in the endocannabinoid system, which includes 2-AG, in the patients that go on to develop a disorder. But, not everyone develops a psychiatric disorder after trauma exposure, so maybe the people who don’t develop a disorder are able to maintain that system in some way. Those are the things we’re interested in testing next.”
“We don’t know how or why this cannabinoid signaling system disappears or disintegrates in response to stress, but it results in the strengthening of the connection between these two regions and heightened anxiety behaviors in mice. Understanding what’s causing that compromise, what causes the signaling system to return after a few days, and many other questions about the molecular mechanisms by which this is happening are things we’re interested in following up on,” said Patel, also the James G. Blakemore Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Molecular Physiology and Biophysics and Pharmacology.
How to get a medical marijuana card for stress
Stress, itself, is typically not recognized as a qualifying medical condition for a medical marijuana card. There are, however, many states that allow patients suffering from stress-related conditions to purchase medical marijuana. Many states leave it up to the doctors discretion to certify patients.
These conditions are as follows:
Some states allow medical marijuana doctors to decide if a patient qualifies for a license. Patients need to check the laws in their state to determine whether or not the state has a medical marijuana program and whether or not stress can qualify the patient for access to marijuana dispensaries.
Alternatively, if the patient’s state does not have a medical marijuana program, there’s a good chance that the patient could benefit from CBD-rich, THC-free strains of hemp. The same products derived from marijuana can be derived from hemp. That includes smokable hemp flower, CBD concentrates, CBD oils and tinctures, pills and capsules, topical creams, ointments, salves, and balms, and more.
Sign Up for Medical Cannabis Today!
For potential patients, if you’re ready, we make it easy to connect with a medical marijuana doctor nearby or online. If you are interested in getting certified, please fill out the MMJ patient registration form below and press submit to get started. See if you qualify today!